Jan. 27, 2007
STOCKTON, Calif. - The last time UC Santa Barbara played at Pacific, it fell behind 22-0 and ultimately dropped a 28-point decision to the Tigers. On Saturday night, the Gauchos piled-up a 20-point lead in the second half and then withstood a furious Tiger rally to record a 70-62 win in Stockton.
The win as the second in a row overall and the third straight on the road for UCSB (13-6, 5-2 in the Big West), which improves to 8-2 away from home this season. Pacific (7-12, 3-3 in the Big West), the three-time defending Big West regular season champion, had beaten the Gauchos six straight times before Saturday night. The win moves Santa Barbara all alone into second-place in the league, one-half game behind Cal State Fullerton.
"Tonight was a very important win for this team," said junior guard Alex Harris who finished with a game-high 27 points. "After winning at Northridge on Thursday, we could have been satisfied with ourselves, but we weren't."
While the Gauchos shot 55.0% and scored 70 points for the first time in six games, they won the game with defense, limiting the Tigers to 34.0% shooting from the field and 31.0% from three-point range. UCSB also held Pacific's leading scorer, sophomore forward Anthony Brown, to eight points, seven below his season average, in 33 minutes. Brown, who was alternately defended by Chris Devine, Ivan Elliott and Emmanuel Bidias a Mouté, could muster just two field goal attempts, making one.
"Brown is a huge weapon for them," began UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "I thought everyone we put on him did a great job defending him, especially in the first half. We fouled him a few times in the second half, but when you hold a guy like him to eight, you've done an outstanding job."
The teams traded baskets to open the game, but Elliott nailed a three-pointer from deep in the corner to give Santa Barbara a 5-2 lead. Pacific's Reggie Vezia, who finished with 13 points, responded with a three to knot the score at 5-5. After a Cecil Brown jumper gave the Gauchos a 7-5 lead, the Tigers scored four in a row to claim a 9-7 advantage, their only lead of the game. Justin Joyner made a three-pointer from the top of the key to give UCSB a 10-9 lead.
James Powell, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday night, made consecutive baskets, the second coming with 8:48 to go in the half, giving the Gauchos a 22-12 lead. The margin was at 12 points before Pacific guard Solomon HorseChief made a three-pointer as the half ended to cut the gap to 32-23 at the break.
UCSB outscored the Tigers 15-4 in the first 4:39 of the second half to take a commanding 47-27 lead. The run was capped by Harris three-pointer with 15:21 remaining in the game. The lead hovered between 12 and 20 for the next 11 minutes. When Devine made a pair of free throws with 4:15 to play, the Gauchos were still ahead 59-45, but Pacific used a 6-0 run, all from the free throw line, over the next two minutes to whittle the lead to eight, 59-51.
With 1:38 to go, UCSB's Glenn Turner was intentionally fouled. He made one of his two free throw attempts to push the lead to 60-51. On the other end, HorseChief missed a floating lay-up in the lane and Harris came down with the rebound. He was fouled and made both of his free throws to make it 62-51 Gauchos with 1:28 remaining.
Vezia was then fouled by Turner on a baseline lay-up attempt and he made a pair of free throws with 1:08 to go, cutting the gap to nine, 62-53. After a UCSB turnover, Steffan Johnson made a long three-pointer from straightaway to make it 62-56 Gauchos. Another turnover on the inbounds gave Pacific another opportunity to narrow the gap, and they did. HorseChief, who finished with a team-high 17, was fouled on a three-point attempt by Powell and made all three free throws, pulling his team within 62-59 with 43 seconds to play.
Following a timeout, Santa Barbara got the ball into Harris who was immediately fouled with 40 seconds remaining. He made one of two free throws to nudge the lead to 63-59 and following a missed three-pointer by HorseChief, Joyner was fouled. He made both of his free throw attempts to make it 65-59 with 31 ticks left. Turner then rebounded a hotly contested lay-up by Johnson and after a timeout, the Gauchos got the ball into Powell, who was intentionally fouled. He made both of his shots from the free throw line and UCSB was up by eight, 67-59.
HorseChief made his fourth three-pointer of the game with 17 seconds left, but Harris made three out of four free throws in the final 15 seconds to ice the win for UCSB.
"Alex really stepped-up and made the plays tonight," Williams said. "He was huge in the second half and when they were really getting physical with him early, he was patient and let the game come to him. He showed great poise tonight."
While Harris's 27 led the way, he was joined in double-figures by Devine and Joyner who each added 10. Devine, who took a very hard fall on his back midway through the second half, was limited late because of back spasms. He also needed stitches in his left elbow following the game as a result of the fall. Elliott finished with nine points, making all three of his field goal attempts, and he had seven rebounds. Turner, who was returning to Spanos Center for the first time since his season ended there in 2005-06, had just one point, but he also had eight rebounds, a key block and a vital assist on the second of Joyner's three-pointers. Joyner also had four assists and three steals. Brown finished with seven points and he tied his career-high with six assists.
In addition to their outstanding defensive job on Anthony Brown, the Gauchos put the clamps on forward Anthony Esparza who finished with just three points and missed all four of his field goal attempts.
UCSB will return to the Central Valley next week. The Gauchos will travel to UC Davis for a non-conference game on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7:00 p.m. They will try to avenge a Jan. 13 home loss to the Aggies. Santa Barbara will resume Big West play on Thursday, Feb. 8 when it hosts UC Irvine in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.